Help- My Brain is Full!

Koi Pond National Arboretum 2011

My brain is full. I don’t think that I am only one with a full brain. I think that most of us live like this now, whether we have organic distraction issues or not. My brain feels like the fish in the video, snapping up everything, and anything.

The world is full of shiny objects, any and all of them can trigger a desire to write a story. The young girl at the library focused on her cell phone, ignoring the eight-month old at her feet?  That is a story. The note I found in the park “I spank you car please to call may (sic)” with a phone number?  The two old dudes arguing loudly over a woman in the library?  Yep- all stories waiting to be told.

I pick up objects, print out news stories, take pictures, and collect dialogue like a pack-rat on cocaine. As a kid it drove my mom crazy. What the heck do I do with all these bits and pieces of inspiration and observations?

 I talked before about my first love- spiral notebooks. But spiral notebooks can be awkward to carry around, so when I leave the house my spiral notebook stays home.  When I am out and about I use Evernote (
Evernote is an amazing application that lets you save everything, an endless spiral notebook for your phone.  If you are not using it, you should be, and they don’t pay me to say that. Using Evernote I can take pictures, record sounds, type, or dictate a note about what I have seen or heard.

So how do I sort these images, clips,  random thoughts, observations, scraps, and whims?  First, I use letter size flat box files. Like this:

Letter size flat file boxes are not expensive, they can be labeled pretty easily, and stack on shelves. They are available in different colors so if you wanted to organize by color you could. They are portable. Each novel gets a separate box. Short Stories and Ideas for Future Works each have a box.

When I have things that are too big to photograph like maps, old postcards, prints, programs, or more tactile souvenirs from research trips, I stash them in the project box. When I am working on a project, I can pull it down and go through what I have tucked away. I print out photos from research trips and print them on contact sheets.
Sorting through the box lets me immerse myself in the details of my story, reminds me why I wanted to write it, and grounds me when I feel like the words are just there, fluttering out of reach.

Will I ever live long enough to tell all these stories?
I really hope I do. But if for some reason I don’t live to 120, when they go through my things, and find all the random stuff I have picked up and taken pictures of, at least now they will know why.

 Be a kid again. Pick things up. Write a story.